Developing a branding strategy as a photographer.

May 3rd, 2024
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Any photographer who has successfully turned their craft into a business has done so by curating a personal brand. Their branding strategy was thoughtfully pieced together as the foundation of their business, then continually referenced and developed. In the sometimes saturated markets of photography, it can be challenging to compete with other photographers for clients–just because you are an excellent photographer, it doesn’t mean that those juicy clients will simply come to you. You need to have the ability to draw people in–this is where your brand voice and strategy come in.

Developing a strong branding strategy for differentiation can be the difference between success and scraping by as a photographer. If you think of any business you love, you likely have a range of positive associations that come to mind whenever you encounter their brand. Your branding strategy is exactly what will help take your photography business to that level with your target audience.

If you’re a photographer starting a business, creating your own branding strategy may sound daunting, but trust us–you can do it! Grab your favorite beverage and planning notebook (or app) as we walk you through the steps.

Understanding the power of branding.

Let’s start with understanding what branding is. Your brand is how you show up when a customer encounters your business, and your branding strategy is the plan that leads to those strategic touchpoints. For example, if you had a family member from Europe visiting you in New England and they asked you the difference between getting coffee at Tim Hortons or Starbucks; how would you explain it to them? Your ability to differentiate between the two companies is based on their brand.

Branding is an important part of building a distinctive identity. It helps clients know who you are as a photographer before having met you–and it can even help them to feel comfortable with you while they are in front of your camera during a session. The power of branding is huge: when you look at camera companies like Nikon or Canon, they can sell products largely based on the loyalty, trust, and brand recognition they’ve built with consumers. People want to purchase from reliable brands and trust new cameras and lenses that are put out by them. This ability to capitalize on your reputation is the reason you need to brand yourself–and your business–as a photographer.

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Identifying your Unique Selling Proposition (USP.)

Now let’s get into building your brand. A fundamental part of your branding strategy needs to be identifying your unique selling proposition (USP). Your USP is what separates you from the other photographers that you are competing against.

Ask yourself, what makes you different or unique? This could be things like your style, approach, target demographic, etc. Answering these types of questions can help you figure out what your USP is. For some specialties where clients spend a lot of time with you, like wedding photography, figuring out how to share authentically about your own personality and interests will become a valuable differentiator–clients need to WANT to spend time with you!

Another pro tip for discovering your unique strengths as a photographer is to write out a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis for your photography business. Understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are can help you figure out what areas to emphasize as you develop your branding strategy–and determine where you can outsource. If you have had your photography business for a while, doing these exercises can also be helpful in pivoting, adjusting, or rebranding.

Elements of a successful branding strategy.

For the next step, we’re going to look at some of the elements of a successful branding strategy including your visual identity, the narrative and storytelling you want to convey, and the importance of consistent messaging. Each of these three aspects is a puzzle piece in your overall brand–you can’t have any missing puzzle pieces or you won’t be able to build the puzzle.

Visual Identity

Your visual identity is comprised of all the visual aspects of your business–it includes your logo, the color palette you use, imagery, and more. All of these create your overall visual style. 

What’s really important in your visual identity is that it stays consistent. The visual style of your website should match your social media platforms and any other marketing collateral that you produce. You wouldn’t expect to see McDonald’s come out with black and blue marketing assets over the yellow and red we all know and recognize.

All of Zenfolio’s templates are customizable and can be leveraged for a visually cohesive brand. And the templates are all perfect for individualizing your branding through your website.

Narrative and Storytelling

Creating your narrative and utilizing storytelling is how your brand can connect with clients and ultimately grow your business. Within your branding strategy, you need to craft a compelling story that resonates with your target audience and draws them to you. You should share this information in the “About” section of your photography website, and you’ll also want storytelling to be built into other messaging you put out as a brand—which includes what you share on social media. 

Another tool to help you create your brand’s narrative is a blog, which is easy to create with Zenfolio. Through your photography blog, you can share your photography journey, experiences on set, and more. You may want to share your vision and stylistic inspirations as well. Blogs take a bit of time to develop but are perfect for building connections with clients (and boosting SEO performance).

Consistent Messaging

Say it with us: consistency, consistency, consistency. We saved this one for last, but one of the most important parts of your branding strategy is to be consistent with your messaging. All of your messaging should be cohesive across all of your platforms, including your website, social media, and any of your advertising platforms. You should aim to use a voice that you can stick to continuously–which is why simply being yourself is one of the best branding choices you can make. It is a lot easier to be consistent when you are your authentic self. The consistency should cover all aspects of your branding strategy from language to visuals to copy to the narrative you share. Your brand cannot be built without consistency.

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Leveraging Zenfolio Features for Branding

To build your brand, lean into the full potential of the templates Zenfolio has to offer. We’re going to help by showing you just how you can leverage Zenfolio’s features within your branding strategy.

Customizable Portfolio

Step one is where it all starts—with Zenfolio’s customizable portfolio templates. As you scroll through, you’ll find several easy-to-use templates that can be personalized into whatever design you want. Within each template, you’ll be able to create your own layout by using smart blocks, and you can use the Zenfolio website builder to help you. As you build your website, think about what it says to consumers—you want it to showcase your visual style, stay within the color palette you’ve chosen, use your brand typography, and have a consistent voice throughout. The website presentation is an important part of your brand and using Zenfolio’s templates can help make your portfolio professional and easy to navigate for users.

Ecommerce Integration for Brand Building

A helpful Zenfolio feature is being able to sell your photos and products online to your customers. As you create your photography business brand and figure out who your target audience is, you can use ecommerce tools to sell products that fit. Creating branding packaging and being able to offer exclusive items to your clients are ways that you can enhance your brand image and create a more targeted marketing approach.

SEO Optimization for Visibility

Finally, as you create your branding strategy, remember that it’s not just about creating a brand that is your photography business, but it is also about making sure that your brand is going to get the visibility it needs and deserves. Zenfolio’s SEO tool can help you do just that. To enhance your online visibility, using tools to improve your chances of landing at the top of search engine results can make a major difference. The SEO tool is built into your dashboard and customizable by page in the website builder–so you can add strategic keywords related to your brand and niche at both the site and page level to improve your photography site’s search engine rankings.

Your website. Your way. In minutes.

Build a professional website that reflects your style. Easily customize your design – no coding required. Run your business…all from your own site with your own brand.

Actionable steps for developing your branding strategy:

Now that you have the knowledge, let’s go through some actionable steps you can take to develop the branding strategy for your photography business. If you already have an established business, try going through these steps to see where you have room to improve.

Define Your Vision and Values

Start by defining your vision and values as a photographer. You can look at this through the lens of how you want to be viewed as a business. Try writing a mission statement—what would you want to be in it? Think about who you want to be, and who you want to target as your ideal clientele. Is it premium weddings? Is it community organizations? What price point do you want to command? Will you be spending a lot of time in the post-production on editing and therefor need to reflect that time in your service prices? Identifying your overarching vision and the values that will guide your brand. This is your foundation.

Create a Visual Style Guide

Step two is creating a visual style guide. Your visual style guide will serve your rule book, something that will help you stay between the lines of your brand. This visual style guide is really important: it’s something that all brands big and small have. To create this, you need to first develop your logo (whether you make this yourself or outsource someone to do it). You should then decide on a color palette and font–for a cohesive feel, these should make sense with your photography style and represent what you want your brand to be. 

Different color palettes and fonts will each have their own feel; vibrant colors can feel more fun or energetic, whereas pastel and neutral tones can have an upscale or boutique vibe. Clean bold fonts can feel editorial and scrolling cursive fonts can feel romantic–take the time to try out different fonts and color combinations and share them with friends, family, or trusted clients to help ensure people are getting the impression you are aiming for. 

Update Your Zenfolio Portfolio:

If you already have a Zenfolio portfolio made, now it’s time to update it by using customizable templates to align your portfolio with your brand. Go through each page using your visual style guide and update appropriately–this is called a rebrand and can be an exciting way to relaunch your business, driving more sales. If you haven’t built your website yet, then choose a Zenfolio template as your base and begin to build your website. 

Remember that it is a best practice for you to regularly update your portfolio to showcase your evolving style and skills. This doesn’t always entail a rebrand–if you stay within your visual style guide, this would just be a routine update to make sure your written and visual content are current, but if you decide that your photography business needs a total overhaul, then it’s time to rebrand.

Establish Consistent Messaging

Starting from the beginning stages of your branding strategy, you need to maintain consistent messaging. As you begin crafting the wording on all the pages of your website, make sure that your messaging aligns with your brand’s personality–. Ask yourself what you want the voice to be. Keep your voice authentic to you; that’s going to make it the easiest for you to stay consistent. Don’t forget, your consistent communication style should be present across your Zenfolio website (and within all of its pages), through the social media copy, and on other platforms.

Utilize E-commerce for Brand Enhancement:

Finally, enhance your brand by setting up an online store within your Zenfolio website to sell branded prints and products. You can also use it as a tool to figure out what sells and how you can diversify your offerings using that knowledge. If your brand is focused on family photography, utilize e-commerce to offer exclusive or limited edition items like holiday cards or an ornament. These are great ways to enhance the perceived value of your brand and allow you more room for creativity while increasing your income.

From A-Z, now you have all the right tools to be able to develop a successful branding strategy. Remember that the brand you create for your photography business is going to be how people know and remember you, and how they explain you to their friends. Your brand touches all aspects of who you are as a professional photographer–your logo, your style, and how you interact on social media. It’s all-encompassing, so make sure it accurately reflects how you want your business to operate and the work you love creating the most. Leverage your strengths, your niche, and who you want your target audience to be. And stay consistent. Embrace your uniqueness and utilize Zenfolio’s features to strengthen your brand and stand out in a saturated photography market. Now’s the time…Get out there and build your brand!


  • Cheryl Dell'Osso

    Cheryl is the Director of Content Strategy at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer at Portraits by Cheryl and Seniors by Cheryl in Raleigh, NC. Cheryl has mentored countless new photographers looking to build successful photography businesses.

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